Hello and welcome to episode 63 of The Berean Manifesto brought to you by The Ekklesian House. This is Pastor Bill and over the next 10 minutes or so we’re going to take a look at empathy.
In Romans 12:15 it says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” In part one of our Valentines Series we talked about true love being a prick, a sharp piece of wood or metal that you would use to keep an animal pulling a cart forward. Just like that prick prodding the cattle forward true love pushes us forward, makes us better, and keeps us growing. In part two of the Valentines Series we talked about Jesus being a prick too. That in expressing the truest love that has ever existed Jesus pushed us forward and He’s pushing us forward, making us better, and giving us avenues of growth. Empathy is the default setting for humanity; it’s an extension of true love trying to make its way out; it will invest us in the sorrows of one another, and teach us to make them our own. Granted, some have learned to silence the voice of empathy in them and a very rare number of others were born unable to tap into this ability at all.
We know, as Christians, that Love is the most important thing, trumping Faith and Hope, right? 1 Corinthians 13:13 tells us, “Now these three remain; faith, hope, and love – but the greatest of these is love.” And if we back up to the beginning of chapter 13 Paul says, “If I speak human or angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give away all my possessions, and if I give over my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.” Have you ever read that and wondered what exactly got Paul going on this rant here about love?
Back up even further to 1 Corinthians 12:12, we find Paul talking about believers as a whole, one group, one body. See the church in Corinth had just as much trouble working with each other as the modern church does now. There was in-fighting and treating some in the body of believers as a higher status than others, and even some being ostracized for operating in gifts of the Holy Spirit that others were uncomfortable with, or had chosen not to believe in at all. Paul goes into this analogy of the church with the human body. He talks about God having put the body together, “giving greater honor to the less honorable, so that there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same concern for each other. So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” Embracing our empathy causes us to be interested, starting with the weakest moving upward, in the sorrows and joys of one another, and teaches us to make them our own. In these passages Paul is specifically talking about our relationships with other Christians. In John 13:34-35 Jesus said, “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
While Paul focused primarily on love between believers, it wasn’t just love for one another that Jesus preached. In Luke 6 starting in verse 27 He said, “Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other one also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks you, and from someone who takes your things, don’t ask for them back. Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”
Through this lens of empathy; loving not only those who hold the same beliefs as us, but our enemies also brings the evangelical command of Jesus at the end of Matthew a little closer to home. Chapter 28 starting in verse 18, “All authority has been given to Me in Heaven and on Earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember that I am with you always, to the end of the age.” That portion of scripture seemed so daunting to me as a young Christian, Jesus seemingly commanding me that I needed to personally take on this burden of reaching the whole world face to face.
The good news, though, is that this command starts in one on one relationships right here at home. There are those who have been and will be called far from their homes to reach others. I’ve answered that call myself on multiple occasions, but there is a field ripe for the harvest right where you live and work. It’s up to you and it’s up to me to love our fellow believer, to love our enemies, and to hold true to the gospel while being a light unto the world.
Until next time…